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Dan Campbell orchestrates a coachless practice for Detroit Lions

It was an odd scene in Allen Park, as the Detroit Lions ran a true coachless practice.

NFL: AUG 08 Detroit Lions Training Camp Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Monday afternoon, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell said that after an intense week of joint practices with the Indianapolis Colts—and with a big Tuesday night practice looming—the Lions were going to scale things back for the day.

“It will be quick, it’ll be about an hour, but just kind of get our legs back under us,” Campbell said. “And then, we’ll have a night practice tomorrow night here, and it’ll be full pads and we’ll go at it, Detroit vs. Detroit.”

Campbell left out one pretty important detail, because when the players took the field shortly thereafter, there were no coaches out there. The players were running practice by themselves. No positional coaches, no coordinators. Only Dan Campbell was out there as an observer, not as a participant.

“He told us this morning that the players were going to go out there and run their own practice,” left tackle Taylor Decker said. “Here’s the team scenarios we want to get done, and you guys are going to go out there and run the show.”

And run the show they did on an eerily-quiet Monday afternoon. For the most part, the practice looked identical to any other one. The Lions did their warmups, had a short positional period, ran 11-on-11s, 7-on-7s, more 11-on-11s and closed with an end-of-game scenario.

“It was good. It was unique,” Decker said. “I’ve never done that before, but it was good work.”

After the reserves got the spotlight during Saturday’s preseason game against the Colts, it almost exclusively first-team players during full-team work. That meant for backup quarterbacks Tim Boyle and David Blough, it was a rare opportunity to act as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.

“That was fun,” Boyle said. “David and I really enjoyed doing that. You know, we hear it all the time, and it’s not as easy as it looks. Conceptualizing the play and kinda splitting it out calmly and not doing it too fast is definitely an art. So give all the offensive coordinators around the league a shoutout.”

The coaches still provided the outline of practice and the script of plays they wanted run during the session.

Though Campbell hasn’t provided an explanation for his decision, the overall theme of the day harks back to something Campbell said back in October:

“When we get this where we want it, the players are the ones who are regulating this. They do it themselves and they know what’s acceptable and unacceptable.”

And that mindset seems to be there with this set of players.

“Can we come out here and can we be professionals and get the work done?” Decker said. “Because you should be able to do that. You don’t need anybody in your ear to come out here and do your work and get better.”

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